Mr. Speaker, it is an honour today to participate in this debate on the budget implementation act for another budget by this government, and another progressive opportunity to advance many of the important social initiatives we are seeking to undertake to grow this country and make Canada an even better place to live, invest and work, as we move further forward into the 21st century. Today, I am going to talk about a couple of the elements in this budget that are particularly interesting and important, namely pay equity, the Canada workers benefit and our poverty reduction strategy. I also want to take a bit of time toward the end of my remarks to talk about the price on pollution and how I see that as contributing to our overall economic objectives in this country.
First, pay equity is a great challenge that this country and indeed many parts of the western world, if not more than that, have faced and struggled with for many years. For decades now, we have been trying to wrap our heads around how we can combat this problem with the various different initiatives that have been brought forward. What we are seeing today, through this budget implementation act and this government's efforts, is a genuine and meaningful attempt to make real change.
The new act would require that federal public and private sector employers who have 10 or more employees establish and maintain a pay equity plan within the set time frames so as to identify and correct differences in compensation between predominantly female and predominantly male job classes for which work of equal value is performed.
The new act also provides for the powers, duties and functions of the pay equity commissioner, which include facilitating the resolution of disputes; conducting compliance audits and investigating disputes, objections and complaints; as well as making orders and imposing administrative monetary penalties for violations of the act. The new act would also require the pay equity commissioner to report annually to Parliament on the administration and enforcement of the new act.
Equal pay for work of equal value is the smart thing to do. As we are seeing, this is not just about doing what is right; this is about creating a policy that will also better enrich our economy. As we heard earlier from one of the parliamentary secretaries, by properly allowing for and making sure that pay equity is enforced so that women are receiving equal pay for equal work, we actually will have the potential to grow the GDP of this country by up to 4%. We think of the staggering effects that would have, especially for a country that already leads the G7 in gross domestic product growth.
Regarding the Canada workers benefit, part 1 of the act would implement certain income-tax-related measures to ensure that an individual who is eligible to receive a Canada workers benefit could receive that benefit without having to claim it. These changes would allow the Canada Revenue Agency to calculate the Canada workers benefit for any taxpayer who has not claimed that benefit. This means that Canadians who qualify for the benefit would automatically be enrolled, thereby ensuring that no worker is left behind. As we have seen, budget 2018 would also revamp the Canada workers benefit by an additional $500 million per year starting in 2019. Therefore, what we are seeing here is an opportunity to make sure that processes are in place so that each individual who qualifies for this Canada workers benefit would automatically start to receive it. People would not have to go through filing the paperwork, and the hurdles and potentially the red tape involved. Rather than spending their time dealing with those constraints and things that can slow their ability to be out there looking for new employment and new opportunities, we are suggesting that this should be, writ large, something the everyone is entitled to. After all, just because individuals might not have the resources or know how to go about accessing a benefit or, for that matter, even know that it exists, that should not preclude their being able to properly get what they rightfully deserve. That is what this part of the legislation seeks to improve.
For 2019, the Canada workers benefit would be equal to 26% of each dollar earned in income in excess of $3,000, to a maximum benefit of $1,355 for single individuals without dependants and $2,355 for families, couples and single parents.
The Canada workers benefit will put more money in the pockets of low-income workers and deliver real help to more than two million hard-working Canadians. These are people who need our help and who we come to this place to ensure they are taken care of. Therefore, I am delighted to see this new measure in the budget implementation act. it will automatically, by default, set in motion how people will access what they are rightfully entitled to through this program the government is offering.
We are also seeing in this budget implementation act a poverty reduction strategy, and in particular the setting of targets. I know there has been some criticism over the setting of targets in legislation. However, the reality is that if we are not continually setting out our objectives and then coming back to measure how we are completing and living up to those objectives, there is really no way of analyzing how effective we are. As a matter of fact, I would argue that these targets give the official opposition more ammunition to criticize a government if it is unable to meet them. Therefore, I think this is a very bold and important move not just to be able to hold future governments to account, but also to be able to assess how effective a government is at delivering various different programs and strategies, particularly as they relate to the poverty reduction strategy.
Let me talk a bit about what the strategy proposes. Division 21 of part 4 of the budget implementation act will enact the poverty reduction act, which sets out two targets for poverty reduction in Canada. This act in fact launches Canada's first-ever national poverty reduction strategy. The reason we need this is quite clear. Canada is a prosperous country, yet in 2015 roughly one out of every eight Canadians lived in poverty. Let us think about that for a second. In a country as rich as ours in terms of economic performance and resources, we should not be seeing one in every eight people in our country living in what we would consider to be poverty. The investments made since 2015 to support the social and economic well-being of all Canadians, as well as a new investment of $22 billion, will help lift 650,000 Canadians out of poverty by 2019, with more expected as the impacts of these investments are realized for years to come. This strategy sets new poverty reduction targets and establishes the federal government as a full partner in the fight against poverty.
The vision is clear. Canada's first-ever poverty reduction strategy is built on a vision that all Canadians should be able to live in dignity. All Canadians deserve to be treated fairly and have the means to meet their needs. Canada's first-ever poverty reduction strategy is built on the vision that all Canadians should have a sense of security and be hopeful that tomorrow will be a better day than today for them, their loved ones, and generations to come.
As I see that my remarks will likely run right up to question period, I want to make sure that I leave time for my colleagues to question me. However, before we get to that, I want to spend a bit of time talking about carbon pricing.
The facts are clear. Despite the fact there might be some out there who still believe that climate change is not real, it is overwhelmingly accepted that climate change is real and a problem that governments, local, provincial, territorial and federal, need to combat. Indeed, we need to work intergovernmentally throughout the world. This is not a challenge that one part of the world is facing, but one that we are all going to face together. Therefore, we all have to do our part.
In the previous reading of this budget implementation act, I read out 54 different regions throughout the world that currently have a price on carbon, and I will not bore the House by reading them again because they are already cited in Hansard if anyone wants to look at them.
For those who ask what the real impact will be on Canada of putting a price on pollution, I would ask what the real impact was on Iceland, Ireland, Kazakhstan or smaller jurisdictions—I will not list them all again—like Poland and Quebec, that is, whether provincial, territorial or national governments. Throughout the world, there is already a price on pollution and it makes perfect sense to price pollution.
If a company builds a product or an end-user uses a product, they have to pay to make that product. If a company—my background is in economics and I always reference widgets—builds widgets, it will need the various components that go into that. If one of those components harms the environment by polluting it, then it makes perfect sense that the company should have to pay for that component that goes into the widgets.
This is why I am very frustrated trying to understand the Conservative Party's argument against a price on pollution, because pricing pollution leads directly into the economic model of the free market that the Conservatives tout all the time. The Conservatives always say that they believe in a free market. Sure, just as that makes sense, everyone should also pay for the components of their products that contribute to pollution when those productes are being produced, but one would think, by the way the Conservatives are arguing, that they believe in both a free market and free pollution. Therefore, the market is not totally free, because the polluting part is not considered free in the market sense, but as something that can be done without consequence.
According to the recently released report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we know we are heading toward dire circumstances by 2030. If we have do not start to dramatically reduce the amount of carbon and pollutants we put into the atmosphere, we will not be able to go back on this. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change said very appropriately during a recent debate on this topic that we are the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change and we are the last generation to be able to do anything about it. Think about that.
It is not just the minister, me, or any one individual who is saying this. This is in a report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that many nations throughout the world contributed to. It basically says that we are the first ones to feel the effects of climate change and the last ones to be able to do anything about it.
I have two very young children. One is four months old and the other is two and a half. I also have a 14-year-old who is in high school. One of the things that keeps me up at night is wondering what kind of environment and world we are leaving our children. The reality is that if we do nothing about this now, we will be leaving them an environment and a world that will be suffering not only the environmental consequences but also the impacts of weather changes. We are already seeing the changes in weather throughout the world.
We should think about the other social impacts that will occur. Climate genocide is one thing this generation will be accused of if it does nothing. There will be climate refugees, people moving throughout the world to escape the effects of climate change. That will impact the rest of the world. It will impact world order. We know what happens when we start to affect those things: it inevitably leads to war and conflict in various parts of the world.
There are many benefits to a price on pollution. Even if people do not believe any of what I just said, even if they do not believe in climate change and do not believe in the realities of what the intergovernmental report said, they should definitely believe that incentivizing businesses to create new ways of doing things and building new products, investing in renewable energy, and investing in electric cars which are more than doubling in sales globally every year is the way to go.
I have heard my Conservative colleagues quite often tout what we versus other parts of the world are doing. Despite what they might think, I want them to know that China is actually a leader when it comes to renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is a leader when it comes to bringing new electric vehicles into the marketplace.
We can work on these problems jointly with other countries throughout the world and that is what I implore us to do. By putting a price on carbon we are providing an opportunity not just to green our environment and to create a better environment, but we are providing an opportunity for Canadians through pushing the envelope and looking for new opportunities, new efficiencies and new innovations to drive forward this new economy.
We should be on the leading edge of this. Let us not follow suit to what we are seeing happen south of the border where clearly a lot of the real opportunities are happening in other parts of the world as it relates to innovative programs and projects by the new industry we are creating for the 21st century.
Before I close, I want to talk about one more thing and that is the non-stop rhetoric we continue to hear from the other side of the House as it relates to debt and deficits. The last time that a Conservative government left a surplus was in the 1800s. I find it so ironic how there is this narrative which, to their success, they have been able to build out there and for the large part most people quite often resonate well with it, which is that the Conservatives somehow know how to protect an economy and build up an economy.
In reality, if we look at the last 151 years, 38% of the time that Conservative governments were in power, they racked up 73% of the national debt. How is it possible that we live in this world that they can tout that they are somehow the saviours of the economy? Out of the last 19 budgets introduced by Conservative governments in the House, 16 of them ran deficits. That includes Mulroney and Harper. Of the only three surpluses that they ran, two of them came on the heels of Paul Martin's $13-billion surplus and the other one came in 2015, when they had to sell off the shares of GM at bargain prices, cut EI and slash services to veterans, all to produce a phony balanced budget with which they could go into the 2015 election.
Canadians did not buy into that. They saw right through it and as a reality, the Conservatives now sit in opposition. I reject the notion that the Conservatives are somehow the saviours of our economy because the evidence does not support it.